Greater Greater Washington

Delegate Frick sees issue on GGW, writes letter to NPS

Maryland Delegate Bill Frick (D-Montgomery) read last week's Breakfast Links, which included an item from Mount Pleasant ANC Commissioner Jack McKay. Currently, the Park Service opens the road at 7 pm. During Daylight Saving Time, it's still light out. That means cars start zooming through the park while pedestrians and cyclists are still in the midst of enjoying the road. McKay recommended keeping Rock Creek's Beach Drive closed to weekend traffic at least until dark.

That made sense to Frick. He wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Rock Creek Park, asking NPS to follow McKay's suggestion. Yesterday, he forwarded it along, writing, "We have sent this letter to the Park Service, picking up on Mr. McKay's comments as read on GGW." We'll see if NPS takes the suggestion.


Click to read the letter (PDF)
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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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I can see arguments on both sides.

On the one side, I agree that bikes/peds want to enjoy the park while it's daylight out and there are public safety issues with everyone intermingling on the roadway.

On the flip side, though, are two things: 1) are drivers not allowed to also enjoy the park and the scenery?, and 2) this has been a long-standing policy, so it's not like the bikes/peds *DON'T* know that the road reopens to cars at 7pm.

by Froggie on Mar 18, 2009 11:29 am • linkreport

Del. Fricks letter to NPS asks for Beach Dr. to be reopened to cars after dark on Sunday. Isn't Beach Dr. currently opened to cars on Sat night? Does that mean Frick is asking for just one night of extended no-cars (Sun.)?

by Bianchi on Mar 18, 2009 11:29 am • linkreport

"are drivers not allowed to also enjoy the park and the scenery?"

I love it.

Drivers own EVERYTHING - the cities, the suburbs, the boondocks. There is almost nowhere you can go and not hear motors revving, cars whizzing by.

And yet, try to set off one little area where people can NOT be loud, polluting, fast-moving hazards - and suddenly the mantra is, drivers are being oppressed.

Give it a rest. Drivers have everything else... bikes/peds deserve a little something.

by Scott on Mar 18, 2009 12:48 pm • linkreport

I think Beach Drive is currently closed to drivers all of Saturday, then reopens Sunday.

by Erik on Mar 18, 2009 12:56 pm • linkreport

Erik, yes. I just checked. The RCP website schedule for Beach drive says it's closed to motors 7am Sat to 7pm Sun

by Bianchi on Mar 18, 2009 1:07 pm • linkreport

yahoo! we are now officially "everyone's favorite anti-car blog" - though i could have guessed that ;)

by jaime on Mar 18, 2009 1:31 pm • linkreport

Scott: just pointing out a couple examples of arguments and points on both sides...even if you disagree with one of the sides...

by Froggie on Mar 18, 2009 3:05 pm • linkreport

Aside from the fight over restoration of Klingle Road, does anyone know the background on the ghastly freeway-style interchange at Klingle and Porter? When -- and why -- did the DOT decide to drop a large interchange and a four-lane quasi-highway into the park? Was this pre-1991, or perhaps a result of the closure of Klingle after the flood?

Most important, is there any chance DDOT might be persuaded to trim Porter down to better fit its surroundings? It's overbuilt at best, is an eyesore in the park, and eats up potential sidewalk space (thus making park access more difficult).

by CP on Mar 18, 2009 3:24 pm • linkreport

CP, I completely agree w/ all you said about that stupid thing. The construction on that thing began ~1992 after Mayor Barry closed that section of Klingle. I remember walking from Mt. Pleasant and up Klingle and back when the intersection was normal and then witnessing the construction and change. When the plans for it were drawn and approved i don't know. It was built after '91.

One argument put forth by the 'roadies' for re-building Klingle was "we've already sunk money into this [stupid expressway style interchange complete w/ overpass] so that money is wasted if we don't re-build Klingle". I believe it was Mr. Tony Bullock who, when testifying against the re-build, said in response to that argument "to re-build Klingle because [that thing] already exists is like sewing a coat onto a button" because the costs to re-build are so high.

by Bianchi on Mar 18, 2009 3:52 pm • linkreport

@CP--they at least need to get better signage on that interchange. Every time I use it I end up going the wrong direction.

by ah on Mar 18, 2009 3:54 pm • linkreport

@CP--Also, I believe that interchange was built with federal money with the expectation it would also connect to Klingle Rd west of RCP. It's a pretty complicated intersection--there are six roads connecting there: Klingle (2 sides), Porter, RCP, Piney Branch, and Beach Drive. Mix in a river and elevation changes, and I doubt a surface interchange would be very effective.

by ah on Mar 18, 2009 4:05 pm • linkreport

ah, when it was a regular intersection you didn't have that problem.

by Bianchi on Mar 18, 2009 4:09 pm • linkreport

It's really only Klingle and Porter that cross at that thing. Beach Dr is east of that intersection; The Piney Branch/Beach Dr intersection is NE of it. It was fine for decades as a regular intersection. Granted I didn't see it for decades as a regular intersection, just one year, and I was walking it not driving it.

by Bianchi on Mar 18, 2009 4:15 pm • linkreport

Thanks, Bianchi and ah.

While it is a complicated intersection, the closure of Klingle makes it needlessly so. Ignorant of the layout before it was reconstructed, I'm thinking that all ramps on the Klingle (southwest) side be removed, the two service roads parallel to Porter be removed (along with two of the lanes on Porter), Williamsburg meets Porter with a one-way stop, and Klingle (north of Porter) meets Porter with a three-way stop.

All Rock Creek Parkway (or is it Beach Drive) merges would stay the same, on the other side of the creek. Traffic would be slowed by an all-way stop on Klingle and Porter (fixing a terrible problem of crosstown traffic doing 45-50 mph at most times of the day), and the great paved mess of extra ramps, two extra lanes on Porter, and two nearly superfluous yield/service roads between Klingle and Williamsburg would be eliminated.

Thoughts?

by CP on Mar 18, 2009 4:18 pm • linkreport

CP, I support the general concept but to hash out details I'd have to see a sketch on a cocktail napkin or something. Defintely get rid of the superfluous concrete. Does your plan get rid of the overpass? I guess that's where the Klingle/Porter all-stop would be? there are several all-stops on Beach drive that work just fine. There is a 3-way all-stop where Piney Brch. meets Beach Dr. just 50 yrds from this monstrosity and a little farther north a 4-way at Park/Tilden & Beach. there's no reason this intersection can't succeed with stop signs too. Someone's unhealthy ego got expressed with that ridiculous expressway style clover leaf between Cleveland Park and Mt. Pleasant.

by Bianchi on Mar 18, 2009 4:35 pm • linkreport

@CP "fixing a terrible problem of crosstown traffic doing 45-50 mph at most times of the day)"

I think what you see as a solution to this terrible problem would be seen by many commuters as a terrible solution to a non-existent problem. Wouldn't your approach resurrect nearly the same debate about shutting off a major commuter route from east of the park to west of the park?

(point being that as a political matter your proposal is probably a non-starter)

FWIW, I would guess the extra lanes and the design were in part mandated by federal design standards that were required to get federal funds.

by ah on Mar 18, 2009 4:48 pm • linkreport

Probably it seems like a solution to a non-existant problem, and certainly it's a political non-starter. Probably a waste of funds, to boot.

But for a Greater Greater Washington, it's a step in the right direction. Erasing scads of asphalt and concrete, changing a freeway-esque artery back to a two-lane neighborhood street (as it does pass through a park and a neighborhood), providing safe pedestrian access to one of the nation's great urban parks, and hugely improving the quality of life for several hundred tax-paying residents would all be good things. And I think many of us can agree that moving the automobiles of non-residents through our city -- especially at the expense of District residents -- should be the very last priority.

by CP on Mar 18, 2009 5:11 pm • linkreport

If you're jogging/biking in RCP, the path goes under all those roads, so there's no need to stop and wait for traffic. A surface intersection would not likely be an improvement.

by ah on Mar 18, 2009 5:18 pm • linkreport

A few comments on this Porter St/Klingle Rd thing:

- Looking at traffic volumes (2007 volumes on DDOT's website), there's a noticeable change in traffic volume on Connecticut at Porter. The volumes suggest that a chunk of Connecticut Ave traffic coming from Chevy Chase and Van Ness is heading towards Columbia Heights, and vice versa.

- That said, volumes on Porter St (and Klingle Rd heading east of RCP) are low enough to where a 3-lane section, with 1 lane each way and a center left turn lane, is probably justified. Though I'm not sure if you have enough width on Porter to have those lanes and a parking lane...you'd need, at an absolute minimum, 47-ft of road width to have 2 lanes, a left turn lane, and parking lanes on both sides.

- Regardless of whether Klingle Rd to the west ever reopens or not, the Klingle/Porter junction looks to lend itself well to a standard T-intersection or a roundabout. In the latter case, the bridge could remain to provide a grade-separated connection for bike/ped traffic.

by Froggie on Mar 18, 2009 6:50 pm • linkreport

I like Froggies round-about suggestion.

Before the cloverleaf There was a bridge over the creek that the paved bike path went under. Returning the intersection to grade wouldn't lose that. Klingle crosses Porter ~50 yds west of the creek. The bike path follows the creek.

I like this envisioning removal of the cloverleaf. Again, all those commuters seems to handle all-stops in several places along Beach Dr. just fine; one more at Klingle & Porter isn't going to change the communte especially since there are stop lights at Conn. Ave on one side and Adams Mill on the other. It's not an expressway. They can slow down 5 seconds sooner without having a stroke.

by Bianchi on Mar 18, 2009 11:34 pm • linkreport

So, why is Porter Street four lanes wide east of Rock Creek and only two lanes wide west of Rock Creek? The answer is evident from the name of the road east of the creek. It is not called Porter Street, but is called Klingle Road. Twice as many lanes feed the bridge from the east now that Klingle Road is closed and Porter has to bear the entire load. No wonder the intersection at Porter and Connecticut has a rating of F (the worst possible) and is so congested. The solution is not to remove the four lane intersection but to reopen Klingle Road to re-balance the street network.

by GF on Mar 19, 2009 8:14 am • linkreport

GF, do you live over there? i do. i have used the Conn Ave-Porter intersection thousands of times. I don't have the same experience as you. When I drive it's not congested for me, or only occassionally so. All those cars coming off Beach Dr. in the morning have MD tags. They could be riding metro. If you dislike the drive so much there's an option for you too - take metro. Or ride a bike. Ride up Klingle Rd west of the creek. It's lovely. The peaceful woodland free of cars is nicely balanced. The road isn't getting re-built. Consider acceptance. For balanced health.

by Bianchi on Mar 19, 2009 9:46 am • linkreport

Rebuilding/reopening Klingle Rd to the west makes sense from a system network persepctive. But if Porter St traffic volumes reflect redirection of traffic from the closed part of Klingle, then there isn't really a traffic volume need to do so. As I mentioned before, DDOT traffic counts along Porter (12.5K/day in 2007) are not high enough to justify 4 lanes, hence the 3-lane suggestion I made.

by Froggie on Mar 19, 2009 10:53 am • linkreport

Agreed. There's no justification for four lanes, even with a closed Klingle. The demand is not there.

From and environmental and aesthetic point of view, wiping out two lanes, the service roads, and the ramps would be a huge improvement for pedestrians (who haven't got easy access to the park, despite the grade separation of Porter from trail users in the park) without inconveniencing drivers at all. Moreover, a simple all-way (three-way) stop would enable elimination of all on-ramps north of Porter (freeing up some real park space).

by CP on Mar 19, 2009 1:03 pm • linkreport

yeah, what CP said.

by Bianchi on Mar 19, 2009 1:06 pm • linkreport

Yes, Bianchi, I live near Connecticut and Porter. Yes, CP, there is, indeed, no need for four lanes on Porter since the traffic would have no where to go once it reaches Connecticut and tries to push through toward Wisconsin. However, that does not mean that Porter can handle the existing traffic. The intersection at Connecticut is at the worst possible level of F (see the traffic study from last year in table 3-1 of Appendix K of the Giant PUD (Wisconsin and Newark) < http://www.wisconsinavegiant.com/ExhibitK.pdf > that would normally call for major remedial action. The reason for that is quickly apparent if you look at a map. There are only five crossings through the Park and Klingle used to take traffic under Connecticut that was bound for Wisconsin and west. Reopening Klingle is the best solution to the congestion at the Connecticut and Porter intersection.

For you hikers, the best thing would be to restore Porter Valley Park by closing Porter Street to all traffic.

by GF on Mar 19, 2009 2:00 pm • linkreport

GF, you and I agree that the Porter/Connecticut intersection is terribly congested and relatively unsafe. I'll not quabble with DDOT's grade of 'F' for that intersection's performace, either.

However, I don't think we'll see eye-to-eye on a possible solution for that congestion. Opening Klingle would certainly offer another cross-town route in a city that is short on them. However, more lanes of traffic wouldn't alleviate congestion concerns at Porter/Conn. It'd still be an awkward, five-way intersection, with cars leaving Quebec, cars leaving the Exxon station, four directions of additional traffic moving through, and hundreds of pedestrians trying to cross over half a dozen lanes of traffic.

If the congestion up there deters just one Marylander from trying to drive through my neighborhood, I'm pleased with that. The more difficult it is for people to bring out the car, the more people will turn to responsible modes of transportation (thus making it a bit easier for those who really do need to drive).

More roads, though, wouldn't get us there.

by CP on Mar 19, 2009 4:22 pm • linkreport

GF this is the first time I've heard of Porter Valley Park and a suggestion to close Porter to restore it. Thanks for the tip!

And what CP said.

by Bianchi on Mar 19, 2009 4:30 pm • linkreport

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